It occurred to me recently that I had never said anything about Let Me In, post theatrical release, so let's do that now since it's fresh out on DVD. The American vampire film won a few year-end citations here and there as a high-quality film but it didn't fare well with the public. It was featured in Cinematical's surprising and funny list of the lowest grossing wide releases of 2010 a month ago. Here's what they said about the vampire film.
Let Me In (Gross: $12.1 million. Widest release: 2,042 theaters.) Let's face it. No matter how good it was, a moody remake of a Swedish import about a non-sparkling teen vampire was never going to be a blockbuster. But we were still surprised at just how poorly this fared in theaters. For comparison's sake, 'Twilight: Eclipse' made $300 million, and even 'Vampires Suck' made $36 million. This is why we can't have nice things.
I get the sentiment and love the joke but I can't agree that it's a big loss as a "nice thing".
It's true that I objected to the remake so I wasn't automatically the most receptive audience. But I kept hearing how good it was so I finally caved and watched a couple of months ago, at first with great interest, about what they'd alter and how its new American setting would affect it. The strong reviews are not surprising. It's a well made, handsome movie. The cinematography is beautiful and moody (though it heavily borrows from the aesthetic ideas from the original, particularly in regards to depth of field), the performances are solid, etcetera.
But the movie fails to answer the question that all remakes must answer: What is the reason you are remaking this? If the movie presents no answer beyond "because it was in a funny language" the movie has failed.
The American version of Let The Right One In didn't make radical changes or bring in new exciting ideas about the characters/story. The few alterations seemed to merely underline the originals suggestion that the victimized boy (Oskar/Owen) would one day become the serial killing man (Håkan/The Father) because he loves that little monster (Eli/Abby). It's creepier when you have to do the work to connect those dots yourself. The only big alteration (place but not time) adds nothing new. And then there were minor erasures of the first film's more difficult and more ambiguous sexuality. Gone was the shock cut to Eli/Abby's genital area and gone was Oskar's gay (?) father -- this character never appears in the remake except by telephone where we learn that he's shacked up with someone named "Cindy". Unless that's a drag queen, he's safely heterosexual for American audiences. Audiences of the original seem to disagree on matters of Eli's gender and on Oskar's father's orientation but the very fact that they prompt argument is another testament to the first film's insinuating ambiguous grip on its audience.
Mostly Let Me In seems content to love and ape Let The Right One In clinging to it as willfully as Oskar/Owen latches on to Eli/Abby. The love is a mark of good taste but a weak excuse for a remake. If you love something, watch it! Be inspired by it. Make your own thing instead. The film it most recalls, other than the Swedish original, is Gus Van Sant's Psycho (1998). That earlier much-reviled "recreation" is a far more interesting artistic exercize because it's so weirdly honest about it's own borrowed artistry and masturbatory xeroxing. Critics weren't at all kind but then that one wasn't in a 'funny language' to begin with.
Also New on DVD This Week
Critical darling indie Monsters, the true story Conviction (interview with Juliette Lewis), the sci-fi tinged drama Never Let Me Go (here's a piece on Andrew Garfield) and Oscar doc finalist The Tillman Story.